Caro Meets Theatre Interview

Misha Levkov: In The Net

By | Published on Friday 6 January 2023

Coming up at Jermyn Street Theatre this month is a staging of Misha Levkov’s debut play ‘In The Net’, the first in a promising trilogy.

It’s produced by the rather excellent WoLab, who brought you ‘Eng-Er-Land’ and ‘For A Palestinian’, so expectations are high. 

I wanted to find out more about the play and the writer behind it, so I had a chat with Misha, ahead of opening night. 

CM: Can you start by telling us what ‘In The Net’ is about? Whose story does it tell? 
ML: ‘In The Net’ follows a day in the life of a family during its time of mourning and healing, as a father and two daughters struggle to restore lost intimacy and purpose. 

Alongside their unease in a Kentish Town flat, and during a time of drought, a refugee from Syria seeks to end her homelessness. 

The two plots wend through the crises of grief and vulnerability and meet in a recovery of defiance and demand.

The play ends with the stage covered by a cat’s cradle of a net, an arena of joyous community and a celebration of full blooming theatricality.

CM: What themes are explored through the play?
ML: The struggles of grief within a family that also belong to the largest struggles we now face: the abuse of state power, the plight of refugees and the climate catastrophe.

CM: What was the inspiration for it? What made you want to tackle these stories and themes? 
ML: Being alive now was all the inspiration I needed. Like others, I find myself with unbroken concern for our near and distant future. And for me, worry, care and concern are good shocks to the imagination. 

They force imagination to picture both how the danger grows and how we might repair the broken world – to heal some of our wounds.

CM: I hear this is the first of a trilogy. Can you tell us about the others? What connects the works? 
ML: The two other plays are now fully drafted. Each concerns the intimate delicate emotions of private life in relation to large-scale public challenges.

The second play – ‘Last Days First’ – is about pandemic disease and the work of hospice care. Three generations of a family must ask how to survive illness and build new life.

The last play, still untitled, shows the revolt of new sexualities against the corruptions of media.

CM: Have you been involved in the production of ‘In The Net’? Can you tell us a bit about the team involved? 
ML: I’ve been closely involved with the production at every stage, which is good and appropriate, because the making of the play is tightly connected to the world we represent on stage.

We’re a diverse group – by religion, ethnicity and generation – and our happiness in working together has already put us ‘in the net’.

CM: Can you tell us a bit more about you? How and why did you come to be writing plays? 
ML: I’ve worked in universities for many years and have been deeply involved in academic research and teaching. But my students – also my books and essays – have carried me steadily towards this new life.

The more I engaged the contemporary world academically, the clearer it became that I needed deeper imaginative expression. The dialogue of an intense seminar room drove me, inevitably and happily, into dialogue fit for the stage and the wider public.

CM: Did you always want to be a writer? How did it all begin? 
ML: Without being mysterious or sentimental, I can say I had no choice but to be a writer.

It’s a clicking in the head of a child; it’s a joke you tell to yourself before you tell your friends; it’s percussive and then melodic; and it’s always been there.

And then one day, when I was fourteen, I had an essay due at 2pm. I looked at the pages over lunch and became unnerved, almost physically ill.

With almost no time, I recast every sentence, almost every word, writing furiously and by hand.

The document was a total mess, running over every margin, but it said what I meant. That was a moment of recognition – about myself, about writing. There’s been no going back. 

CM: What would you say have been the highlights of your work thus far? 
ML: The thrill of collaboration. The more we work together in workshop and rehearsal, the more profound the emotions and the possibilities.

To have such a sensitive insightful director and such unnervingly gifted actors – this is more than a ‘highlight’, it’s blinding glory.

CM: What aims and ambitions do you have for the future? 
ML: While working on the play, I finished the draft of a novel – called ‘The Career Of Beauty’ – that I’ll return to in the early spring, alongside the plays.

But the bigger ambition is to belong to the community that has started to sprout – warm, committed, hilarious people I want to work with in many capacities: cooking, running, marching, play-making.

CM: What’s coming up next for you after this? 
ML: More of the same, only better, bigger, funnier, and also more serious, more alive, superficial and deep, more intimate.

‘In The Net’ by Misha Levkov is on at Jermyn Street Theatre from 12 Jan-4 Feb, see the venue website here for more. | | |